I've been meaning to play this game for quite a while. I've had it on my GOG account for a year or two, but I've just never gotten around to playing it. With the release of the GOTY edition of The Witcher III and my refusal to start a series in the middle, I figured it was finally time to fire up the game and dive into the world of Geralt of Rivia. And my feelings on the game are mixed.
First and foremost, the game feels dated. That's not, by default, a problem with the game. It's one of those games that you probably won't notice feels dated unless you've played or seen gameplay of the later games (I haven't played II or III, but I've seen gameplay). It's like the original Mass Effect; most people won't have much negative to say about the first Mass Effect game aside from the god damn Mako, but once you play Mass Effect 2 or Mass Effect 3, you'll go back to the first one and think "Jesus Christ, how did I ever play this game?" That's the kind of dated that The Witcher feels like - it's not unplayable, and the game is still really fun once you get into it, but definitely feels like it's 8 years old.
You do, however, get a good bang for your buck. Being an older game and the first in a three game series, it's not terribly expensive these days, and you'll get a lot of gametime out of it. GOG Galaxy decided to stop tracking my playtime randomly halfway through and start up again just as randomly a few days later, so my playtime in the client isn't accurate, but I'd reckon I spent between 35 and 40 hours on the game. I didn't complete every side quest, but I'd say I definitely did more than half. Straight storyline, you'll probably get 25 or 30 hours out of the game; completionists will likely get 50+.
While the story is engaging (albeit a little slow to get going) and the characters themselves are interesting, the plot's biggest weakness - and this is a MAJOR weakness IMO - is the presentation. The writing for the dialogue is....okay....and the character animations are decent although not particularly convincing. The big problem is the voice acting. Dear god, the voice acting is atrocious. There will be parts that feel totally fine and like they got actually competent actors to do the dialogue, but then you'll get back to Geralt or Dandelion or one of the incidental characters, and you can just tell that the guy was reading straight from a script with zero fucks to give about the job. And that's really a shame because it seriously puts a damper on an otherwise immersive world. It also doesn't help that, outside of major plot-centric characters, you'll see the same four or five faces over and over and over and over again on countless different characters throughout the game. That's also kind of immersion-killing.
Mechanically, my biggest problems are the crafting and quest tracking. The crafting system - especially the weapon modifications with the blacksmiths - are extremely counterintuitive and have a steep learning curve. I never did figure out how to get the blacksmith to modify my weapons instead of just sell me other weapons or buy my extras. The quest tracking works well about 70% of the time, but the problem there is that the quests that it allows you to track (which is, I'd estimate, about 40% of them) sends you to a pre-set waypoint that doesn't necessarily indicate where your objective ACTUALLY is. I don't mean like it sends you to a dungeon and you have to scour the dungeon for the objective - that's fine. I mean like your objective is to talk to Dude A, so it sends you to his house, but then you find out that Dude A is off gallivanting fuck knows where between noon and midnight so you have to either search high and low in hopes of stumbling upon this ass hole or trek back to the other side of the city just to take a nap and then go back to the OTHER side of the city to talk to him. It's not game-breaking by any means, but it is extremely irritating.
Now despite the crap I've given the game, I did thoroughly enjoy it. There are some serious performance issues that you need to iron out or deal with, though. There's no option for V-sync in the in-game video settings, and - at least on my monitor - there was MAJOR screen tearing that actually did render the game unplayable for me. Fortunately Nvidia's control panel let me force V-sync for all my programs across the board, but if you don't have something like that with your video card, you're kind of SOL. Even after fixing the screen tearing issue, I'd have some random stutters and frame rate drops as well as not-infrequent crashes (roughly one or two per 5 hour gaming session). Nothing that totally kills the experience, but it definitely didn't run as well as I'd have liked, and I had to get into the habit of saving more frequently than normal. I'm not sure what caused my issues, if it was just poor optimization in general or if it's finicky with Windows 10 or what, but a GTX 980 shouldn't struggled to keep a solid 60 fps in a game from 2008.
All in all, I'd definitely recommend The Witcher to fans of Western RPGs, but be aware that it's only available on PC; the console port was scraped for the first game. Also, for those of you with children who may see you playing, the Enhanced Edition on GOG has the censorship removed, so in addition to the usual fantasy game tits, there are definitely several furry tree nymph and vampire-lady vaginas with noticeable vulvae. Be forewarned.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.